stops me cold in the frozen foods aisle, as I try
to juggle the numbers in my head—most times
I give up, do the long division in the fog that
condenses ghost-like on the open glass door:
A twenty-four-pack on sale for four bucks.
Two thousand nine hundred ninety-six dead
(the total keeps creeping upward; it’s tough
to know for sure). One hundred twenty-five
boxes would run me five hundred dollars even.
Ten years later and I still make sure that I keep
enough space on my credit card, still sometimes
wake up sleepy with dream-hope, wondering if
the doorbell will ring, if I’ll answer it to find all
two thousand nine hundred ninety-six of you
crammed into my front yard, packing the street,
hear two thousand nine hundred ninety-six voices
yell April Fool! “But it’s September,” I’ll protest;
That’s the genius of it, you’ll reply. That’s how
we pulled it off all these years. You’ll explain
the logistics as we stroll the two miles to Stop
& Shop, how you hired David Copperfield to
vanish the towers, got the Pentagon in on the joke.
I’ll happily charge five hundred dollars’ worth
of Popsicles, pass them out one at a time
while grinning and admitting “you got me good.”
We’ll all laugh and enjoy the sweet, brief lives
of our quiescently frozen confections before going
our separate ways, joke complete, stepping over
two thousand nine hundred ninety-six discarded
and broken wooden sticks, riddles on the dry end,
punch lines stained purple and orange and pink.
It would be a quieter world, not even the squeak
of a finger on cold glass, no inverted math
evaporating off of a sealed freezer door.
(first appeared in volume 2 of Constellations)